Exploring the stories of women who live by a ride-or-die philosophy

[MEMOIR] She Who Struggles

By Jade Helena

This piece was inspired by Assata Shakur.


I know now that as soon as my mother gave birth to me

I was born to struggle
I was born in struggle
15lbs of struggle etched in the veins of a baby girl, born from a mother with gestational diabetes
The medical term for all 15lbs of me is “macrosomia”
My aunty’s term for me was “butter ball turkey”
I prefer the latter
Cause though I was fatter, I think I needed more of aunty’s love than I needed so-called soul food
Contractions came and went in pain and anticipation, awaiting my arrival with rushed conversations
Of it being too late to receive an epidural
A broken pelvis bone and only my dad to take me home cause my mother had to remain hospitalized until she was better
I get home and none of my new born clothes fit me so it’s back to the church to exchange for bigger sizes, trying to settle endless crying
I don’t know why I cried so much
They say I wasn’t collicky
Maybe I was resisting this world since I inhaled my first breath and blew it out, wearily, through chubby cheeks and tiny nostrils
My baby fat fell away and most of what was left of me was thick, dark colored hair, bushy eye brows, and spaced out teeth that I’d inherited from my father
Curiosity killed the cat but it didn’t kill me as I grew older and got lost in books and silently cursed my parents for not buying me anything from the book fairs held at my school, wondering why I couldn’t have them
I was a shy kid
I preferred Nancy Drew mysteries to throwing snowballs at cars on the way home from school
When I got older and was reunited with my godbrother, he said I hadn’t changed I was still quiet and reserved and very observant
Slow to trust
Reading people like I read books as if I needed a summary and an intro before I could give or receive hugs
I left Nova Scotia, the place where I grew up and every so often I would be greeted by relatives and family friends who were raised there as well
They always told me how beautiful I’d grown to be
Still, I didn’t remember them or hearing that when I was little
One of my favorite encounters that I’ve had more recently was a conversation between my older cousin and I
Everyone calls him Big O
I finally got the chance to see him at a house party and I hugged him with all of the love I had in me
Love I’d managed to save after years of struggling in my home town
Love I’d managed to save after a personal vow to never return there permanently
Big O had just come home from prison
I told him how proud I was of how well he was doing for himself
I would have cried because of his response if there hadn’t have been a room full of people and so much lively Scotian energy surrounding us
“You’re a beautiful young woman Jade. I always knew you would make something of yourself, nah mean? We grew up and we seen some stuff and been through some stuff but you? I knew you had it in you cuz”
I was both humbled and flattered
Every encounter I have that mimics this one makes me blush to know that there have been people who believed in me all along
Without me even knowing
Even when I had no hope for the world, somewhere in the world there was someone rooting for me
Whether it was from a man sitting behind the rusting bars of a prison cell or from a young woman, staying up late to think and reflect after a long day of university classes and studying
And this is who I struggle for
This is who I fill my brain with knowledge for
My heart with love for
My spirit with resilience for
As they say, there’s a method to the madness
& no step walked in resilience is walked in vain
Even when I feel alone in the world
I couldn’t give up struggling if I wanted to
My conscience wouldn’t allow it
There’s no plane that could fly me far enough to escape the struggle
There’s no car I could drive far enough to escape the struggle
No train track, no piggy back
No means of escape could separate me from the struggle
Cause the struggle lives in me
Black life is a part of the struggle
From their conception to their homecoming when our ancestors receive them again
Cause Eugenics and narcotics and pharmaceuticals and GMO don’t want to see us live
Black love is a part of the struggle
Spring weddings and 60 yr anniversaries
Jumping the broom
Something old and something new
Young and in love and can’t get enough of you, of us black love
Brown eyes in a trance, black fingers holding hands, big lips kissing away tears of pain and passion
That black, black love
Old and still in love black love
Still respectful of, still protective of black love
I’ll be yours until we die then I’ll see you on the other side black love
Black love doesn’t die
It’s more than the rose that grew from the concrete
It’s the baby born with the cord around its neck
And all of the fatality rates that say it won’t live
That cord is the system
But we gon’ go on living anyway
Black families are a part of the struggle
Like big squeals from tiny mouths, “Daddy’s home, Daddy’s home!”
Black love like Mom saying, “You guys won’t be going anywhere until that homework is done!”
Black love like my sister saying, “If anyone tries to jump in, I’m jumping in!”
Black love like my brother taking me on dates and his only explanation of why is that he’s showing me how a man is supposed to treat me
Black love like candy from Nanny and favorite aunties and a tidal wave flow of first cousins to play with on holidays
Black love like tattle tales and teasing and fighting and ‘fending for
Cause they’d rather tell us that we don’t exist in that capacity
They’d rather portray the lie that we’re incapable of loving like so, of living like so, of surviving like so
But we’re in it and we did it and we continue to do so
Being black is part of the struggle
Whether you’re a yellow bone or a brownin or a dark skinned beauty
We’re in it
We resist the system in our own ways and I know in my heart that we’re always only one step away from liberation
& when we walk that step in resilience, we walk alongside and within the spirits of our ancestors
 As soon as we step away from disunity, we step towards freedom
We have nothing to lose but our chains since our black is eternal
I know now that as soon as my mother gave birth to me
I was born to struggle
Struggle is the foundation of freedom
We don’t live to die
We die to live
And that’s all we want to do is live
Live free from the constraints and confinement of the system’s oppressive, destructive, and murderous ways
Like Assata Shakur
I am she who struggles
I was born to struggle
I was born in struggle
Even if no one sees me struggling
Even when I lose hope for the world and don’t believe in struggling
I couldn’t give up struggling
My conscience wouldn’t allow it
When my ancestors rise from the floors of the oceans and the bottoms of their unmarked graves and through the soil of the trees they hung from to ask me what I did with the struggle that they passed on to me
I will say I lived it, I survived it, I wrote it down and gained strength from it
I shared it with words and tears and love
And I conceived it
I left it’s legacy to live on
And I knew that no step walked in resiliency would ever be walked in vain
As long as I’m here, in this life, I’ll be she who struggles and when I pass it on to my own reflection of creation
That reflection will draw upon the strength I’ve received from those before me
And we will struggle
In spirit and love and resistance

Jade HelenaJade Helena. I don’t see myself as a poet or a spoken word artist, I’m simply a writer seeking peace through words.

7 Responses to “[MEMOIR] She Who Struggles”

  1. natasha delecambre

    absolutly beautiful writting, full of love, hope, and courage. From jumping the broom, to the strenght through words, how many generation later, touching all our hearts.

    • helenathemisfit


      Thank you for your kind response to my memoir. I give thanks that you’re able to receive my words in the way that you did. Please feel free to check out my personal blog for more!



      • natasha delecambre

        And thanks to you Jade, for responding to me. I am all the way in France, in a little tiny village in the pyrenees mountains, so know that you work is out there, reaching many people, and touching their hearts.Keep up the good word.

      • helenathemisfit

        Sending you love and positive vibes from here in Toronto. I’m from a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada. I really appreciate your words. I’m happy to see how far words can travel. Again, I give thanks.

  2. Trisha

    What a beautiful tale. You can inspire so many as you continue to follow your dreams… continue spreading your love.

    • helenathemisfit


      Thank you so much for your kind words. I plan to write a book one day also 😊

  3. Lorenzo

    Some words to hit my soul. Others to make me fold. Keep your head up and stand up for something. Of the likes in which I’m always told. That’s just. Let’s up. Keep going. You got it. Your words light up my soul. Ultra awesome and stellar writing Jada. Tenfold. It’s gold.


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